Create a New Habit with an App


In Three Steps for Creating a New Habit, I outlined three key elements that can help you be successful in creating a new, positive habit, whether that’s related to writing, exercise, or rest and renewal. These three steps are:

  • Connecting with the deeper value or “why” behind your desire for the new habit

  • Defining specific, measurable, and realistic targets for your new behavior

  • Tracking your actions, so you know what helps you be successful and what gets in your way.

There are lots of different tools you can use to assist with creating and tracking a new habit. Analog versions include Benjamin Franklin’s method of creating a grid to record your self-evaluation, or putting marks or stickers on a wall calendar. A simple checklist works well for some people.

I’ve written before about some digital solutions, such as the web-based and Joe’s Goals. And Amy wrote about Tracking Habits on the Go with Habit List (iPhone only).

There are lots of other habit tracking apps currently available, including:

These apps have a wide variety of features and different designs. Some like emphasize community features and reward systems; others like Way of Life are known for providing different views of your data. In keeping with my personal rule that you should find tools you like to use, and use them, I’d suggest downloading a couple of different apps just to see how easy you find the interface to use and whether you like the design or not. A habit tracker app is something you will be using every day, possibly multiple times per day, so you should like the one you choose.

For my own habit tracking, I’m currently using Rewire, an Android app that follows Google’s Material Design specification. This creates a simple, streamlined interface that fits in visually with other apps on my device. You can define up to five habits to track in the free version of the app, which is plenty for most people, especially if you’re starting something new. For each one, you can record your deeper purpose for starting the habit, and you define how many days per week or even specific days you plan to do the new behavior. That way, if your goal is to go to the gym three days per week, the app knows when you’ve met that goal.

To record your success, you simply click on the day in the simplified calendar view, building up a clear visual of your progress. You can also optionally add notes. Rewire’s statistics screens let you see your tracking data over time. One of the things I’ve especially appreciated in this app is that it sends a notification to my phone in the evening reminding me to check off my habits for the day. Simple, unobtrusive, and effective: I’ve flossed my teeth every night for 19 days so far!

Have you used a habit tracking app? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user Martin Fisch]

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